Hope Springs (2012)
Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell, Elisabeth Shue, Jean Smart, Ben Rappaport, Marin Ireland, Mimi Rogers and Becky Ann Baker.
Hope Springs is a romantic comedy-drama film starring the wonderful actors, Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. You can say that it is kind of a middle age crisis movie or a rom-com for older people. It deals with the story of this couple, Kay and Arnold Soames. They have lived a wonderful life together, they loved each other dearly but that have somehow changed now. The spark that once existed in their life have completely faded away and gone. Kay is someone who realizes it a lot more than Arnold does who continues to live the way he does without noticing the difference between his life with Kay now and his life with Kay then. We can see the little things that Kay notices daily and how it effects her but she doesn't say anything. They even sleep in separate rooms. One day, tired and through with the dull life she is living, Kay tells Arnold that she has paid for both of them to go on a week long intense marriage counseling with Dr. Bernie Feld (Carell). Arnold completely rejects the idea of going anywhere as he thinks there isn't anything wrong with their marriage that needs counseling. But in the end, he gives up and gets on the plane anyway. During their sessions, Dr. Feld tries to understand what made them hold on to each other at first place, the spark that existed between them, what was the cause of it and what should he tell them to do in order to get it back. The answer of course is sex, physical relation, which is something they haven't done in ages. Now every time Dr Feld tells them to do a different thing together on the bed. Things are quite awkward and weird and they desperately try to do the exercises. Arnold is someone who always criticizes whatever Dr. Feld tells them to do and he always gets defensive being the stubborn man that he is. During the week, their relationship takes some twists and turns when the both try to get back on the track.
The best thing about Hope Springs is definitely the brilliant, effective and believable performances from both the leads. Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep not only gives superb performance but the chemistry that they have together is quite real and exciting. These actors are someone that makes everything work, they realize that the movie is going to all about them and about the characters that they are playing and the particular part of their married life where they are struggling to get back together. It works a lot, Streep being the wife of man who seems to be showing less or no affection to a wife he couldn't stop loving back in the days. Streep shows both signs of a mature non-cartoonish performance (i am talking about the other rom-com she did a few years back) but here she is both funny in parts where she needs to be and serious in the others. But the actor with the best and most surprisingly amazing performance in the movie is Tommy Lee Jones. I can't remember the last time i loved him in a movie where he had so much to do. He is for once likable in a role that is both meaty and quite honest in terms of the kind of the character that he is playing. Both these actors are the driving force of the movie and they deliver more than the movie deserves or asks for but that is because the script and direction in the movie is weak. Even Steve Carell as a therapist was very much believable, i liked his performance as well. Now the movie is a mixture of some big laugh out loud funny moments as well as some subtle humor which arises from the awkwardness of the situations this couple gets into. Whether its Arnold's remarks or Kay's uncomfortable attitude, its always fun to see this older couple going through these series of situations that is both funny for us and important for them. The longing that is shown or the intimate moments between this older couple is quite realistic and effective in a way that they aren't used as means of laughs but as an important and serious thing. The treatment is quite good or else in most of the movies, they are a reason for silly laughs. Hope Springs is a really lovely and warm movie, one with less to tell and more to show and one that completely relies on its actors to convey what it is hoping to tell. Even though that is the only thing you take away from an otherwise above average movie.
Wuthering Heights (2012)
Kaya Scodelario, James Howson, Oliver Milburn, Nichola Burley, Eve Coverley, James Northcote, Lee Shaw, Amy Wren, Shannon Beer, Solomon Glave, Steve Evets, Paul Hilton, Simone Jackson, Jonny Powell and Michael Hughes.
The British indie director Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank) brought her own version of the classic Emily Bronte's novel last year with much mixed response thanks to her rather unorthodox treatment of it. This particular adaptation of Wuthering Heights isn't one of those sweeping typical good looking costume dramas that we are so used to. Arnold's Wuthering Heights has this earthiness to it, its style is very Malick-y and its tone is rather gritty, dark and aggressive. Many people thought it completely insulted the original beloved source material it is based on by Arnold making a usual pretentious indie out of something that shouldn't be done that way. What i felt watching this movie has nothing to do with how it was originally written by Bronte nor do i care. I don't mind a director making their own version of a literary work because what i feel is that both literature and movie making is a different type of art. Transforming one's work from one medium to another would certainly require some things to be added in order to make it work which is one thing. On the other hand, if someone wants to give their own touch to an existing work, that shouldn't mean that the person would have to make an exact replica of that very same thing. Art is both original and copied in a sense that a copied art is original only because every individual perceives, understands and replicates it in their own way, nobody is same and art shouldn't have boundaries or restrictions. Now that i defended Andrea Arnold's version of Wuthering Heights, the most important thing for me is that whatever she did with it, it worked for me and i am happy with that.
The story of course revolves around Heathcliff and Catherine and their undying but very animalistic love for each other that kind of shapes up within the whole harsh environment they live in. Heathcliff is shown as a black person in the movie, at first when he shows up, he speaks a language that no one understands. This family takes him and he grows up with Catherine which sort of but not actually makes them siblings. Heathcliff isn't accepted by his foster brother as he is beaten all his life and is forced to work. The movie takes place in the airy, misty and beautiful moors and it creates such an amazing effect. The scenery is spellbinding, add to that the haunting sound created by the strong winds and Arnold's depiction of violence and love going hand to hand makes it quite bold and appealing in a whole new manner. The passion that exists between both these characters is what makes us stick to the movie. The first half which features the younger characters is much more effective and passionate then the one shown towards the end when the characters have grown up. The second half is the closest Arnold came to a typical costume drama, while her style of depicting this story never changes, the passion that existed against the violent archetype of "society" turns into a cold, merciless, revenge story making for a less appealing story that seems to drag on a little. The characters in the movie are not likable at all, they all just either hate each other or doesn't care for anything. The imagery and the mood that is created through wind, mist, rain, flowers, mud, insects, animals, insane human characters is quite impressive. The cinematography of this movie is its strongest point delivering a very naturalistic kind of images in a way that irritates a lot of people but not me. I think it bring out a lot in the dullness of the people that are in the movie by showing them against a backdrop of a merciless but beautiful nature at the same time.
The performances by the young lead actors are somewhat better than the one by the older actors. Wuthering Heights to me is appealing because of the unconventional way its been made. It is very raw, bleak, minimalistic and often quite disturbing but it brings out a whole new side to the characters in the movie. The movie is very powerful and that is something that is rarely found in most of the movies that are made on these period novels.
Farewell, My Queen (2012)
Lea Seydoux, Diane Kruger, Virginie Ledoyen, Xavier Beauvois, Gregory Gadebois, Francis Leplay, Noemie Lvovsky, Vladimir Consigny, Julie-Marie Parmentier, Michel Robin, Lolita Chammah, Marthe Caufman, Jacques Boudet, Martine Chevallier, Gregory Gadebois, Jacques Nolot, Serge Renko, Anne Benoit, Dominique Reymond, Jean-Chretien Sibertin-Blanc and Jacques Herlin.
Farewell, My Queen is a French drama based on the novel by Chantal Thomas and it deals with a fictional account of Marie Antoinette (Kruger) and the last three days before the French Revolution. The movie is set entirely inside the Palace of Versailles and is shown from a point of view of Sidonie Laborde (Seydoux). She is someone who reads aloud to the queen and also shows a great interest in fashion designing. Everyone inside the palace isn't concerned by the increasing turmoil in Paris as they live their lives like nothing is wrong. When things starts getting worst, the fear of government falling drives many aristocrats away abandoning the Royals. Another movie that many would remember was Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette but they share no similarities whatsoever. Director Benoit Jacquot goes for a risky decision that pays off in a way by shooting the movie as per view of a young servant rather than making another straight forward costume drama in a biographical sense. The movie has a feeling of someone exploring the lives of this Royal family and the peeping tom kind of setup intrigues one and makes us a part of that world rather than forcing us to see the exact historical account. Now in doing that, one easily looses interest as Jacquot tries to juggle between Marie Antoinette's personal life, her special relation with the duchess Gabrielle de Polastron (Ledoyen), Sidonie's feelings for the queen and Sidonie's personal life. This leaves us feeling baffled as the movie just goes on without first establishing itself on some strong grounds. Now what makes it more bearable is the style with which its being filmed, as i said its very intriguing.
Its a fascinating movie because the things that unfolds in it, the one of historical importance are shown from a distant. The director of the movie makes us feel like one of those ordinary people witnessing a major event in the history, the way he involves the non-important characters in it builds up in a superb manner. One of the most important things that is shown in the movie is the supposed affair or should say feelings of Marie Antoinette towards Gabrielle. I don't know if its a fact or just fiction but the lesbianism sub-plot that we see is something that brings the three female characters together and then immediately drives them apart. By the time it reaches that point, the movie has no idea where it is going. The unresolved sexuality is what leaves a weird taste in your mouth because it is ended in a very harsh manner. You feel for the characters but you don't really know why you are doing so. I wont say that Lea Seydoux's performance was good, she was just fine. Its her eyes that really reveals so much about her rather than her facial expressions which is something i have seen in all of the movies. The character she plays is surprisingly dull and blandly developed, her apparent crush for the queen is shown in a pretty ill devised manner as well as treated harshly. It is Diane Kruger who is the real deal here. Even though she isn't in the movie for that long but she is able to convey the emotions and the change in winds for Antoinette in both her personal life and her life as queen in a way that completely engrosses you to her side of the story which however is given little importance to. Kruger makes her character both likable and then dis-likable by realizing exactly what the queen herself would have done or thought in the particular time and delivering a very effective and amazing performance. You'll see wonderful costumes and production design but nothing grand as it shows the end of an era, the downfall. The cinematography can be a bit distracting though for a costume drama but that is because we haven't seen ever.